1. Love Your Neighbor

    June 4, 2024 by Jeremiah Dennis

    Love Your Neighbor

    Living Examples of Courage

    Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas. What do these names have in common?

    Each man was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor. To win this medal, a soldier must display unparalleled bravery, courage, sacrifice, integrity, and love for others.

    Francis Flaherty earned the medal at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

    Alfred Nietzel earned the medal in 1944 in Heistern, Germany.

    Ardie Copas earned the medal in Cambodia in May, 1970.

    In each case, the men heroically and sacrificially laid down their lives to save other soldiers, thus earning their place in Medal of Honor history.

    And you know what?

    The same degree of courageous, others-centered love displayed by Flaherty, Nietzel and Copas is required of every Christian. To use Jesus’s words, you’re called to love your neighbor.

    Love Explained by Christ

    Jesus explains in Mark 12:28–31:

    “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

    Jesus’s words raise two important questions:

    1) What does it mean to love?

    2) Who is my neighbor?

    The Apostle Paul offers some helpful answers in a related passage found in Galatians 5:13–14, saying:

    “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    Let’s answer our first question: What does it means to love?

    The word “love” used here points to a love that’s supreme and sacrificial, devoted and dedicated. And this love is displayed when we “serve” others. Incidentally, the word “serve” is a present tense command, which means we’re meant to serve in a constant, continual, ongoing manner.

    But there’s more. The word “serve” means to “to conduct oneself in total service to another” and to “perform the duties of a slave.”[1] In other words, real Christian love is described as a form of sanctified slavery. It’s humble, willing, eager, and submissive service driven by sacrificial love for others.

    Paul gives us further instruction on what that love is supposed to look like. Notice the end of verse 14: “as yourself.” Literally, the verse says “love your neighbor as you yourself” (italics mine). Now that doesn’t mean what some people think it means. It doesn’t mean you have to love yourself first. The Bible isn’t advocating self-love.

    Rather, Paul is saying that you should be as devoted to meeting the needs of others as you are to your own needs. Think of it like this. When you’re hungry, what do you do? You find something to eat. What do you do when you’re thirsty? You get a drink of water. In short, your natural reflex is to take care of yourself.

    And that’s exactly what this verse is saying—be as energetic and eager and excited about meeting the needs of others as you are about meeting your own needs. That’s what it means to love.

    Which brings us to our second question: Who are we supposed to love?

    Look at the end of verse 13: “one another.” That’s reciprocal love between believers. But it doesn’t end there. Paul gets even more specific at the end of verse 14: “your neighbor.” Which is the same word Jesus uses in Mark 12:31.

    Biblically speaking, your neighbor is anyone God puts in your path. It would include believers. Galatians 6:10 – “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

    I would also include unbelievers, here, because Galatians 6:10 says “let us do good to all people” It would even include your enemies. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

    Let Us Exemplify Christlikeness

    Now let’s put it all together. What does Jesus mean when He commands us to love our neighbor?

    Loving our neighbor means we are to adopt the attitude of a humble, diligent slave and love everyone who God puts in our path. Which would include: our family; our parents; the sibling that totally annoys us; the neighbors whose dog barks at all hours of the night; the kids at our school; and the Mormon missionaries who come knocking on our door.

    Francis Flaherty. Alfred Nietzel. Ardie Copas.

    Each displayed a remarkable measure of selfless and sacrificial love for others. But you don’t have to be a Medal of Honor winner to love like that. In fact, all you need to be is Christlike. That’s what it means to be a Christian. So let’s get busy loving like Jesus.

    [1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL 2000) 259.


  2. Love Your God

    April 9, 2024 by Jeremiah Dennis

    Love Your God

    The God of Scripture

    How do you define success? What standard do you use?

    The world offers a variety of metrics—the neighborhood you live in, the kind of car you drive, the size of your 401K, the number of social media followers you have—but God has a different one.

    Jesus reveals it in Mark 12:29–30:

     “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”

    Success, according to God, looks like giving Him your undivided and unrivaled affection. It looks like loving Him with the highest, widest, deepest, and purest love.

    Jesus explains what that means and how to accomplish it in verses 29–30.

    It all starts with loving the right God.

    He’s our God, which indicates He’s a relational God. He’s intimate, personal, and knowable. He’s also “one.” That speaks of unity in plurality. One God in three persons. This hints at the Trinity. It also tells us that God is one of a kind. He’s unlike any other god. He’s to be treated like no other and loved like no other.

    As Exodus 15:11 says, “Who is like you among the gods, o Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” Also, Nehemiah 9:6, “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heaven with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in it. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before you.”

    This is the God we’re meant to love.

    But with what kind of love?

    The Right Kind of Love

    Jesus describes the right kind of love in verse 30.

    “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

    The preposition “with,” repeated four times in verse 30, indicates the source of something. Thus, our love is meant to be an inside-out love, flowing from the very core of our being.

    The specific word for love that Jesus uses describes a love of action, not just feeling. It’s the highest and greatest form of love. A love of intelligence, purpose, will, sacrifice, choice, commitment, and dedication.

    And notice how Jesus commands us to love God: “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

    “Heart” refers to the core of the person. It implies a love from the root of your being. “Soul” speaks of the seat of emotions. “Mind” relates to the will or purpose. “Strength” reflects physical capacity or physical energy.

    The cumulative force of this is that we’re meant to love God with a love that encompasses everything. Nothing is excluded, nothing left out. It’s an all-out love, an all-in love, an all-of-me love. It’s a love that springs from deep within and consumes the entire person. It’s to love with all your being, with all you are, with all you have.

    This isn’t a divided love, or a distracted love. It’s not a leftover love. It’s the first and best love. Loving God with this kind of love has always been God’s plan for man. It’s always been His standard for human success.

    The Record of Scripture

    Consider the following biblical record:

    Deuteronomy 10:12 – “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him…”

    Deuteronomy 11:13 – “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…”

    Deuteronomy 13:3 – “For the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

    Deuteronomy 19:9 – “If you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways always…”

    Deuteronomy 30:6 – “Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live…”

    Nehemiah 1:5 – “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

    Joshua 22:5 – “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways.”

    Joshua 23:11 – “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.”

    Ephesians 6:24 – “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.”

    James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

    James 2:5 – “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”

    1 Peter 1:8 – “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him…”

    Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him…”

    The Object of Love

    If this is God’s standard, how are you doing? Are you loving Him with this kind of love? With everything you are and everything you possess? With a love that comes from the core of who you are?

    The love that God requires is the greatest, highest, purest, and noblest form of love. And that’s appropriate because its Object is the greatest and the highest and the purest—namely, God Himself.

    May you love Him with that kind of love and thus live a life of radical success.


  3. Bear the Gospel

    February 13, 2024 by Jeremiah Dennis

    Bear the Gospel

    Let’s talk about living a life that matters.

    About exploding beyond the humdrum of daily existence and living a life that reverberates throughout the centuries.

    Interested?

    Then let me encourage you to embrace one simple, critical conviction: As a believer, you must bear the Gospel; that is, you are called to participate in God’s global mission to glorify the Son through the purposeful proclamation of the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, nation and people.

    Charles Spurgeon once said, “If there be any one point in which the Christian church ought to keep its fervor at a white heat, it is concerning missions. If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world.”[1]

    As a Christian, you’ve been summoned and selected, hand-picked by the King of everything, to courageously carry the good news of Jesus Christ to the very ends of the world. Two compelling reasons support this assertion.

    • The Lamb is Worthy of Worship
    • Global Glory Is God’s Goal

    The Lamb is Worthy of Worship

    The Lamb is worthy of worship.

    Consider the following scene in Revelation 5:8–9:

    When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased peoplefor God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation.’”

    What’s going on?

    This is nothing less than a heavenly worship service. The assembled creatures and elders observe the Lamb of God and spontaneously erupt in worship. And the purpose of their praise is simple: To exalt Jesus, who shed his infinitely precious blood so that he could purchase a people who would give God glory forever.

    Heaven grasps the unspeakable worthiness of Christ to receive eternal glory and honor.

    Do you?

    Are you living for Christ’s glory, or your own? You weren’t mean to live for career advancement, financial security, or familial bliss. In fact, you weren’t meant to live for you at all.

    You’ve been redeemed by the Lamb so that you would pursue the goals and glory of God. Quite simply, that the Son would be worshipped for the magnitude of his sacrifice and the perfection of his character, and that his fame would spread far and wide, touching people from every ethnicity, every language, every culture, and every race.

    The Lamb is worthy of worship.

    Global Glory is God’s Goal

    Filling the world with God-worshippers has always been God’s game plan.

    From Genesis to Revelation, the pages of Scripture drip with God’s missionary fervor for his own global glory.

    Consider the following passages of Scripture (Italics added for emphasis):

    Genesis 12:1–3 – “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

    Psalm 46:10 – “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

    Isaiah 49:6 – “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’”

    Malachi 1:11 – “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure, for My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of Hosts.”

    Matthew 28:19–20 – “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Acts 1:8 – “…you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

    Romans 15:9–11 – “…Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing praises to Your name.” Again he says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people.” And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.”

    Revelation 7:9–10 – “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

    The testimony of Scripture is unmistakable: God’s goal is and has always been glorious, global worship.

    Now, if you’re wondering how you can be involved, let me offer three simple suggestions:

    Pray

    Pray that: 1) God would send more missionaries; 2) He would supply all their needs; 3) He would save people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation; and 4) Churches would grow strong and remain true to sound doctrine.

    Give

    Support missionaries financially. If need be, start small. Give $5 a month. Hold off on one Starbucks latte a month, and give that money to a faithful missionary that your church supports.

    Go

    This may mean moving to a foreign country and serving in a local church so that the Gospel may spread. Most likely, however, it will look like going on a short-term ministry trip and spending a week or two with your church, serving in a foreign country. These trips are life-changing and perspective-shifting, opening your eyes to the massive need for the Gospel across the world.

    You can live a life that matters. You can live a life whose impact echoes throughout time and eternity.

    Though I don’t know what God has in store for you, I can tell you this—He’s calling you to a courageous commitment to boldly embrace your role in God’s global plan to bring honor to his name, from your own neighborhood to the nations.

    [1] Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Vol. 14 (Pilgrim Publications: Pasadena, TX, 1982), 220.


  4. Preach the Gospel

    January 11, 2024 by Jeremiah Dennis

    Preach the Gospel

     

    If you were to die tonight, where would you spend your eternity?

    That’s the ultimate question facing all of us.

    Hebrews 9:27 affirms the inescapable reality of death when it declares, “and inasmuch as it is appointed unto a man to die once, and after this comes judgment.” This means that if you’re a Christian—if  you know and believe the glorious truth that God is holy, man is sinful, Christ is Savior, and salvation comes only through repentance and faith—then you’re one of the most important people in the world.

    You hold in your hands the gospel key that unlocks the gates of heaven. The question is, what are you doing about it?

    Our world is headed to hell in a handbasket, drowning in sin, deception, and false religion. Our neighbors, coworkers, and family members desperately need to hear the life-giving news of the gospel; which makes you, dear Christian, one of the most important people in the world. And as I’m going to argue, it implies that gospel-proclamation ought to be your life’s work. Not your occupation, but your sacred involvement.

    Said differently, every Christian must preach the gospel, not occasionally, but as a lifestyle. And to be clear, when I say “preach” I don’t mean preach from a pulpit. I mean verbally declare that the wrath of God abides on sinners (John 3:36), and only through the atoning blood of Christ can they be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with Him. Three biblical realities drive the forgoing assertion. As a believer you ought to preach the gospel as a lifestyle pattern and practice because:

    1) The need is great.

    2) The gospel is essential.

    3) You are God’s method.

    The Need is Great

    Why should you embrace your personal responsibility to proclaim the gospel as a regular lifestyle pattern? Because the need is great. The fleeting nature of life highlights the greatness of the need.

    Isaiah 40:6 teaches that, “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.” Flowers and grass are here today and gone tomorrow. That’s a picture of mankind.

    James uses a different analogy to stress the same point. In James 4:4, he writes, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

    Your life is like the smoke that rises up from a candle and disappears. Adding to the urgency of the need for gospel proclamation is the fact that sin is deadly. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…”

    And how many people have sinned? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). That’s universal condemnation. By the way, the death mentioned in Romans 6:23 isn’t mere physical death. No, it’s the eternal separation and unending agony awaiting all who those who don’t know Christ. In a word, it speaks of hell, a place of never-ending torment, where sinners are subjected to the infinite wrath of God, forever.

    Unsettling as the concept of hell is, the Bible plainly affirms its reality. Revelation 20:15 says, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

    In Mark 9:47-48, Jesus provides these sobering words:  “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

    The word for “hell” is Gehenna, which refers to a ravine south of Jerusalem that was a trash dump. The Jews burned the trash there, so the fires were always burning and the smoke always rising. That’s the picture of hell.

    So why should you proclaim the gospel as a lifestyle conviction?

    Because the need is great.

    The Gospel is Essential

    There’s a second reason to proclaim the Gospel: because it’s essential. The gospel is the exclusive path to paradise. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

    In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus declares, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    The road to heaven isn’t a superhighway. It’s a one-lane road. And yet, most people think the path to heaven is broad and easy. They imagine that all you have to do is be a good person, try hard, sprinkle a little religion into your life, and ask God for forgiveness once in a while.

    But the truth is dramatically different. The way is narrow and the standards are high. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are required.  So preach the gospel because there is no salvation without it.

    The Method is You

    Lastly, believers ought to preach the gospel as a lifestyle conviction, because they are God’s method for evangelizing the world. God could have written the gospel in the sky with fire. He could have sent an army of angels to preach the good news. But He didn’t.

    Instead, He entrusted believers like you with the greatest message ever told and instructed us to go far and wide, telling everyone about it. Did you know that as a believer, you’ve been personally recruited by the King of everything?

    That’s right. You’re an official representative of the King, armed with His message, empowered by His authority, and stamped with His approval. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

    My friends, your mission is to go to a lost and dying world and beg and plead with lost sinners to turn from their sins and to believe in Christ.

    The great preacher Charles Spurgeon describes it this way, saying: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay…If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”[1]

    That’s what it is to be an ambassador for Christ. That’s why you must preach the Gospel as a lifestyle conviction. Because the need is great, the gospel is essential, and you are God’s method.

    The question is, how are you going to respond?

    [1] Charles Haddon. Spurgeon. Sermons of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon of London (United States: Sheldon, Blakeman and Company, 1864), 333.